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06/03/2009

Education Budget Revealed

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Some £5million to address a continuing maintenance backlog in schools, funding for primary school uniforms and almost £8million to meet the cost of job evaluation in the education and library boards are among items covered in NI's education budget for the coming year.

It has also provided £6million in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 to assist employing authorities in meeting the costs of premature retirements.

The details were revealed today by Stormont Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, who admitted that it was a "difficult budget" for Northern Ireland's schools and warned the education boards that "hard decisions will have to be made in the incoming financial year".

Schools would have to prepare themselves for a financial troubles, including compulsory teacher redundancies and cuts in front-line services.

Already, Ulster Unionist Education Spokesman Basil McCrea has said he understands there could be up to 40 compulsory teacher redundancies in each board area in a bid to save cash.

However, the Education Minister confirmed today funding available to go directly to schools' delegated budgets is up 5.3% from 2008-09 to more than £1.1billion.

In addition over £400million will go to the boards, an increase of almost 2.6% from 2008-09.

"I have had to strike a balance between ensuring core services are maintained and at the same time other important priorities are addressed including relative levels of funding for primary schools.

"That has meant some difficult decisions have had to be made, but overall, I believe the package I am announcing strikes the right balance," said Ms Ruane.

"On this basis I will have to curtail funding for the fourth cohort of specialist schools," she continued.

"Through the Innovation Fund I will be able to support some of those schools that have submitted a bid for specialist status in a Science, Technology, Engineering and and Mathematics area, but those hoping to pursue a specialism in other curricular areas will, I know, be disappointed and I will be writing to all those schools to explain my decision."

Following the latest notice of their financial allocation, the various education boards have just over two weeks to draw up their budgets for the 2009/10 year.

(BMcC/JM)

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